Now's the time to become a pirate

There are a plenty of new careers and opportunities these days, yet you rarely see anyone entering the piracy field. Some people have invented their own versions of a shipwrecked pirate - stealing stereos, hacking into computer files, playing baseball in Pittsburgh - but few take their chances on the high seas.

On the other hand, the Assocated Press said pirates killed more people in 1998 than the year before. The International Maritime Bureau reported Malaysian pirates, who killed 67 crewmen last year, are "getting increasingly violent."

Pirates? Violent?

Pirates, like most cuddly, cute land mammals and Barney, are not violent by choice. Society has a certain stereotype for swashbucklers. It's hard to shake. You loot one boat, itís likely you'll loot them all. In the old days, pirates were not barbarians. They acquired other ships for fun and possibly to ask directions to the nearest rest area.

Mutinies were learning experiences. Navigation was not a chore for the weak at heart. These characters gave life to adventure, much more than any of today's video games. Pirates would probably be content with the an older Atari 2600 version of Pitfall, swinging on ropes and grabbing treasure.

New pirates are giving those who lived before a bad name. Some pirates are myths, but some had to be real. Kind of like exes. They come and go and rarely leave any trace behind.

One way to remember the true piracy spirit is to teach it. Iíve been giving a lot of thought to opening a pirate school. Think about the skills one must attain to become a decent pirate, let alone an excellent one.

First, thereís geography. How can you expect to find ships, treasure, islands and Dunkin Donuts if you can't even use a compass? Map skills are certainly necessary to find your way around the water.

Sailing is optional. I would have to hire another teacher because I don't know how to sail. For now, the pirates will rent a ship operator. You should be able to do that at the nearest port.

Don't forget accounting. So you loot a ship and have to split the bounty among others. Some of your boatmates, being the '90s entrepreneurs they are, may want to invest in stocks, bonds or something of the sorts. It's a little-known fact, but pirates pay hefty taxes.

Communication skills are a must. Every captain has run-ins with mutiny. It happens. But with some guidance, it can be kept to a minimum. If your lookout man wants to get a part-time job at Long John Silvers, don't freak out. If your deckhand wants to practice diving off the plank, no big deal. Just be patient.

Communication should also extend to animals, especially your parrot (first day of class, donít forget to bring your parrot). He needs essential phrases, or people will ask what the thing is doing on your shoulder. Parrot potty training is a good idea.

You can't be a pirate without proper attire. Eyepatches are out of style. I recommend the bi-optic, glasses with a binocular-type device. That's even better than a telescope. An interesting hat will aid the cause. An arm hook or wooden pegleg would be appropriate, but don't remove limbs if itís not necessary.

Etiquette will be taught each day in class. Proper pirate talk is not difficult. For beginners, start each sentence with "Arragghhh!!!!" Call everyone you know "matey." We'll work on other lines, like "Shiver me timbers" and "Walk the plank, you bloody fool." But the basics are needed first.

Guest speakers will play an integral role in the ordeal. Jimmy Buffet will answer questions, as will Capt. Lou Albano. Both have first-hand knowledge, although limited to the land. Historical field trips could result in more doubloon findings. Proper attire required.

There's no need to teach pillaging. Expert pirates see no reason for it. They are on the water for adventure, excitement and a reason to escape credit card debt. The Malaysian pirates are phonies. I bet they've never even played Pitfall.